Russian government asks IFAW team to assess oil spill

Friday, November 16, 2007
Yarmouth Port, Mass
Russian environmental officials have asked a team from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) to assess the impact to wildlife following an oil spill near the Black Sea.
Earlier this week, several ships sank or ran aground during a fierce storm in the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Volganeft-139, a tanker loaded with nearly 1.3 million gallons of oil, broke in half during the storm. It is estimated that half the freighter’s oil has spilled into the strait and has begun washing up on nearby shorelines. It continues to leak oil. Officials assessing damage have said that could be the worst environmental disaster in the region in years.
 
“The damage is so huge it can hardly be evaluated. It can be compared to an ecological catastrophe,” said Alexander Tkachyov, governor of Russia's Black Sea region of Krasnodar, according to Interfax news agency. “Thirty thousand birds have died, and it’s just impossible to count the loss of fish,” he said.
 
Over the next few days IFAW’s team will assess the impact to wildlife in the area and determine what type of immediate response must be mounted to help affected wildlife.
 
“IFAW’s oil spill team will work with Russian officials to advise on what measures can be taken to save affected animals,” said A.J. Cady of IFAW. “This is an enormous oil spill that will have an ecological impact for years.”

According to news reports, about 100 workers in the coastal settlement of Ilyich were on the beach using shovels and a bulldozer to scrape globules of oil off the sand. Oiled birds are washing up on nearby shores. A flock of about 1,000 rails, a species of wetland bird, were huddled on the beach, unable to fly because their feathers were coated with oil. Some were unable to stand. Cleanup workers said wild dogs had been taking advantage of the birds' condition to attack them. A Reuters reporter found a number of the birds on the beach with their heads torn off.

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